Guest Post from Author Lucinda Secrest McDowell, of “Dwelling Places”…When Will You Finally Slow Down? (Plus Q and A’s…)

Friends! This week we’re in for a real treat. We’ll be hearing from an author friend of mine, Lucinda Secrest McDowell (Cindy) who seems to have a “word” for us all, namely yours truly on a regular basis. I’ve written about a couple of her beautiful, inspirational books in previous posts:

One Word That’ll Make Your Day

When Was the Last Time You Took a Bath?

And Don’t Allow Distractions to Derail You

Cindy is a gifted writer.  She’s been mercifully gracious to me and our Tuesday Bible study group recently when we had the privilege of studying her book Refresh!

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This week we get to hear straight from Cindy, gleaning inspirational words from her newest devotional, Dwelling Places.

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Please join me in reading Cindy’s post we can all relate to as I rush out the door…:


 

When Will You Finally Slow Down?
Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Driving through Pebble Hill Plantation I saw the road sign that caused me to grind to a halt.

“Slow Down. I Mean It!”

And Pansy Poe, the owner of this beautiful estate outside my Georgia hometown, had signed her name to give it more authority.

Actually, God could have authored that sign as well.

I believe He sends signs warning me to “Slow Down” all the time, but I’m usually running by too quickly to notice. Missing what God has for me – “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” (Isaiah 32.18)

Or, as one seasoned pastor advises, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry.”

When was the last time you really rested? Hard to do, isn’t it? Our environment is constantly depleting us with noise, distractions and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. We are just too busy to rest.

“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means that you are busy, just like everyone else,” claims Kevin DeYoung, a pastor and father of six who struggles with finding true rest. “It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”

Do you want more of Jesus and His rest?

I believe our greatest threat is distraction. Did you know the root of this word is the Latin word distractus which literally means “to draw or pull apart?” No wonder we feel torn in every direction!

The author of “Sanctuary of the Soul” says that we have noisy hearts. “The fact that our schedules are piled high and we are constantly bombarded by multiple stimuli only betrays that we have succumbed to the modern mania that keeps us perpetually distracted. The moment we seek to enter the creative silences of meditative prayer, every demand screams for our attention.”

How can we quiet our hearts and discover these “undisturbed places of rest?”

Unplug. Sign out. Turn off. Hang up. Be ‘Closed for the Weekend.’ Clean up your surroundings so fewer projects call out your name. Put sleep and ‘nothing’ on your agenda and then keep those appointments. Determine your greatest distractions and energy-drainers and decide to be proactive about curbing their power over you.

And then go to Jesus and rest in His care. “Faith means resting – relying – not on who we are, or what we can do, or how we feel or what we know. Faith is resting in who God is and what He has done. And He has done everything.”

Slow Down. I Mean It!

©2016 Lucinda Secrest McDowell Excerpted from “Dwelling Places” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell (Abingdon Press)

 

Lucinda Secrest McDowell is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she offers “Encouraging Words” to all on the journey. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, Cindy is the author of twelve books, including Dwelling Places, Live These Words, Refresh!, Amazed by Grace, Quilts from Heaven and Role of a Lifetime. Whether co-directing the “New England Christian Writers Retreat,” mentoring young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Cindy’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things. She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at EncouragingWords.net

 

Lucinda

Thank you, Cindy! Wonderful words of encouragement…

 

Finally, let’s ask her a couple of questions:

How did you come to write this book?

LSM: So…. how did I come to write a book called “Dwelling Places?”  Honestly, this one-word-a-day devotion (meant to both inspire and teach) came out of my own need to know. And to grow.

Every year I choose a “word from the Lord” and find myself marinating in what it means to my life on all levels — spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Last year the word was DWELL and as I explored the many facets of DWELL, I recognized my own desire to learn how to dwell in peace and serenity and joy and hope; rather than spend my time in exhaustion and hurry, chaos and confusion.

Turns out God’s Word is full of dwelling places – those sanctuaries of refuge and abiding. In my new book “Dwelling Places” I offer 130 of those words and unwrap their meaning through storytelling, biblical teaching and hundreds of quotes from hymns and godly people who are my own teachers.

There are actually four sections which can be read at any time, but they include 30 days for Advent and 40 days for Lent if you’re interested in trying out that special discipline during the church year. DWELL (Fall) SHINE (Advent) RENEW (Lent) GROW (Summer) OR just read any word, any page at any time.

I loved writing this book and felt each word and verse were truly given to me. I absolutely know the benedictions at the end came straight from God through my pen. I am humbled and grateful to be able to share these words. 

 

Why should people read Dwelling Places?

LSM: My observation is that people everywhere are hungering for refuge. A safe place. A true home where they can live authentically. Ask the hard questions, and receive all the grace and mercy needed after devastation. In my speaking and writing I long to help show that all throughout God’s Word the precious concept of “dwelling in His constant presence” is lifted up. In the Old Testament we are directed to sanctuary, refuge, and called to Be Still. In the New Testament we are encouraged that Christ wants to make His home in our hearts.

So I decided to write a devotional that lifted up these concepts – each day based on One Word in a key verse. My goal is that throughout the stories that are shared, the biblical and historical profiles mentioned, the hymns, poetry, and even children’s books will all work together to help teach the reader how to live the deeper “with God” life. But at the same time enjoy the process of knowing where to find hope, grace and mercy. In other words, these are words that touch a hurting world. Everything I do must have a practical aspect so I hope there is a takeaway each day on how to live the word you have just been reading about. Also, I felt compelled to offer a short benediction, as though God were now giving His blessing and charge on your going forth, now strengthened with His Word in your heart and mind.

 

Will you share some favorite quotes from Dwelling Places?

 “So I embraced both meanings of dwell: 1. To live 2. To focus. It soon became obvious that all too often I live amid hurry and obligation, dwelling in anxiety and surrounded by noise. And where was my default focus – circumstances, lists, self-preservation, tasks, things? No more.” Lucinda Secrest McDowell in “Dwelling Places” (from “Dwell” p. 2)

“We all carry soul wounds. Scars from childhood family skirmishes. Scratches from professional rejection. Scabs from physical trauma we never saw coming. Limps from having fallen one time too many. What are your souvenirs of suffering and what will you do with them?” Lucinda Secrest McDowell in “Dwelling Places” (from “Wounds” p. 144)

 

THANK YOU CINDY! AS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO SPEND TIME WITH YOU.

 BLESSINGS!

 ‘Til next time!

P.S.  Don’t forget about Book Club, next Monday night, September 26th, with author Kristy Cambron coming to discuss her book The Ringmaster’s Wife.  6:30-8:00 p.m., at Middletown United Methodist Church, in Louisville, KY. Bring a friend and join us!

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You’re Invited to Meet and Hear Author Kristy Cambron, Monday, September 26th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Middletown United Methodist Church (PLUS FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY!!!***)

Friends! You’re invited to Branches Book Club’s first gathering of the season. Bring your friends! We’ll be extra spoiled by having the opportunity to meet and hear from author Kristy Cambron. She’s driving in from Indiana.

 

We’ll be meeting at Middletown United Methodist Church, 11902 Old Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY 40243 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on Monday, September 26th.

Kristy will be talking about her newest book, The Ringmaster’s Wife. You still have plenty of time to read this compelling novel and bring questions you may have for her.

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Jump onto her website and go to “books”. Click on The Ringmaster’s Wife and you’ll find a video clip of her research into the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. She takes you on a fabulous tour of the Ringlings’ Ca’d’Zan Mansion.

It’s just as elaborate as she describes in the book, complete with a breathtaking vista of the bay. Don’t miss the gorgeous wood in the dining room.

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Kristy’s novel is set in the 1920’s. She transports us readers right into the Roaring Twenties when the circus was gaining momentum.

An unusually talented young woman from North Yorkshire, England, Lady Rosamund Easling, is discovered by a young man named Colin Keary. He works for the Ringlings. (Colin has an interesting story revealed in the book as well.)

Colin spies Rosamund standing atop a horse while the horse gallops thru’ a field. She remains standing with an uncanny ease. Colin instantly knows he must talk her into joining the circus. You’ll be astonished at the hurdles she jumps to get to the States.

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Rosamund left a life of royalty, comfort, and a future marriage for the vagabond circus life. Her boldness will take your breath away.

I’m forever grateful for Kristy writing this novel. I confess I’ve never been much of a circus girl. Having our own three-ring circus at home (Three boys plus one wildly adventurous husband, come on!) seemed enough entertainment. Kristy and her husband are also blessed with three boys, so I’m hopeful she’ll share some of their stories on the 26th too.

When our boys were little, we took them a couple of times when the circus came to town. They preferred cotton candy to the clowns, but the elephants and tigers completely won their attention.

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We never realized the intense orchestration behind the actual production of the circus. This is one of many eye-openers Kristy includes in her novel.

Kristy also gives us a sneak peek into circus performers’ lives, the significant effort it takes to tote a circus to town, juggling the vast variety of personalities, the challenge of bookings, ticket sales, and on and on.

We readers will also witness the destructive potential of star power. Kristy weaves a little plot within the plot that’ll shock your socks off. Jealousy rares its’ ugly head and you won’t believe her who-done-it.

Happy to report there’s also a love story. Who doesn’t love a love story? You’ll be cheering the characters along.

Finally, don’t miss the unique friendship that evolves between Mrs. Ringling herself and Rosamund. It’s sweet and sincere. Can you fathom having a mentor such as Mable Ringling?

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Kristy dots her pages with God’s hand in some of her character’s faith, their prayer lives, and lessons in relying upon the Lord. Not every character has faith to cling to which is precisely what gets them into trouble. No spoiler alerts, tho’!

Read the book before September 26th and come ready to discuss it. Think of some questions you’d like to ask Kristy. If you don’t have time to read it, no worries. Please come and listen because you’ll want to read it later!

More good news: We’ll be having circus fare to eat! Caramel corn, hot dogs, corn dogs, popcorn, spun sugar (sounds fancier than cotton candy) and other nutritious treats will be on the menu. If time permits, bring something you’d like to have at a circus to add to our smorgasbord.

Girl eating cotton candy

Between meeting the author and the fun food, what more motivation do you need? Mark you calendar now! Please join us Monday, September 26th, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.! You won’t want to miss this!!! Don’t forget to invite your friends!

Let’s remember to ask Kristy to tell us about her next book, The Illusionist’s Apprentice coming out next year.

illusionists-apprentice

Don’t forget to add to your calendar Liz Curtis Higgs and Bill Higgs are BOTH coming to our October meeting, October 24th! We’ll be discussing Mixed Signals by Liz and she’ll be interviewing Bill about his new novel, Eden Hill.

Mixed Signals

Eden Hill

31 Verses to Write on your Heart

Plus Liz’ newest book, 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart will have just released. (10/18) It will be available that night as well.

Hope to see you Monday, September 26th! Please call Nancy Tinnell at MUMC to RSVP: (502) 245-8839.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

***Please leave a comment which will enter you to win a FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY of The Ringmaster’s Wife. After five days, we’ll draw a name from the comments. I’ll mail it to you in time before the meeting.

 ‘Til next time!

 

 

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Bob Russell’s New Book, “After 50 Years of Ministry, 7 Things I’d Do Differently and 7 Things I’d Do the Same” Will Bless and Teach More Than Ministers…

God’s hand has been on Bob Russell for well over fifty years. It’s nothing short of astonishing. John and I’ve been two of thousands upon thousands of blessed recipients of his ministry.

Twenty-seven years ago, two of John’s siblings began talking non-stop about Bob and his church, Southeast Christian, where he was the Senior Pastor. We remained skeptical. The following Sunday, however, we decided to visit purely out of curiosity.

With our firstborn two-year old in tow, we were told the first floor was full. Climbing the steps, we discovered every seat was also taken in the balcony. People motioned to us to sit on the steps. Clearly this was commonplace.

The Lord was doing amazing things, drawing crowds like we’d never witnessed. Wanting to do further research, John and I stood in line one Sunday to meet Bob. Zeroing in on us, Bob asked questions, fully listening in spite of the line of people piling up behind us.

I said, “We’d love to have you and Judy over for dinner one night, if that would suit?” He quickly answered, “Sure. Give Judy a call. We’re in the phone book.” I was stunned, thinking surely they had an unlisted number. The next morning I called Judy and we set a dinner date. (Some of you are wondering, “What is a phone book?”)

Fast forward several Sunday services and a fun meal between the four of us later, John and I walked forward to join Southeast. Judy told me afterwards she about fell out of her chair when she saw us join as she’d thought we were already members. I’m beyond blessed to report we call Bob and Judy dear friends and mentors.

Last summer, I interviewed Bob about his book, The Acts of God: Why Does God Allow So Much Pain? Several of us enjoyed it as a Bible study along with the impactful teaching DVD’s. It is excellent if you’re on the hunt for a new fall study.

Acts of God Book

Now, let’s dive in to his newest book, After 50 Years of Ministry, 7 Things I’d Do Differently and 7 Things I’d Do the Same. Bob told me this book is his favorite because of the ripple effect it’s already had.

After forty years of pastoring Southeast, Bob retired.  Here’s what his retirement looks like:  For the past ten years, Bob’s been preaching all over the country and leading several mentoring retreats for pastors each year. He also writes an inspirational weekly blog plus he squeezes in a game of golf when he can (www.bobrussell.org). Sitting in a rocking chair is still not in his future!

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While ministers of all ages can greatly benefit from Bob’s book, many of my friends are reading it even though we’re not officially in the ministry. (You’ll see later where I make the case we are all in ministry of some sort.) One of our preacher friends told us he’s already watching less TV per one of Bob’s suggestions!

I started by reading all the chapter titles. When I saw Bob wrote about Judy in Chapter Four, I flipped ahead to read it first. (Kinda cheating, but not really?)

Very vulnerable, Bob confesses he wishes he’d have been “kinder, more attentive, and more animated” with Judy. He gives us readers a peek into their lives revealing valuable lessons.

Bob and Judy recently celebrated their fifty-first wedding anniversary. Their two sons and their wives and seven grandchildren are a testimony to their faithfulness not only in their marriage, but to the Lord. Their oldest grandson, Charlie, recently got married and was ordained into the ministry. He and Faith are ministering at a church just outside of Chicago.

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My favorite part of the chapter is near the end where Bob shares twelve, count-’em-twelve, reasons he loves Judy. He entitled it, “Fifty Years of Marriage—Enjoyment, Not Just Endurance.” (I told Judy that chapter alone is brownie points for life on Bob’s part. Way to go, Bob.)

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Another favorite aspect of this book is how each chapter stands on its’ own. I found myself ping-ponging between the 7 Things I’d Do Differently and 7 Things I’d Do the Same. Fascinating discoveries.

Often I’d read snippets to John. One time we’d say, “Oh wow, I had no idea.” Another time we’d howl out loud. I love how Bob stresses the importance of humor. Bob says, “I think laughing out loud is one of the healthiest things a person can do.”

Chapter Nine’s title, “I would make the necessary adjustments to cope with the taxing pressures of ministry”, has all of our names on it. After all, we’re all ministers to others, aren’t we?

Remember the saying, “You may be the only Bible someone will ever read.” True we’re not all senior pastors of a mega church, but our spheres of influence are far reaching.

Bob offers eight suggestions, many of which we can take to heart. One suggestion Bob recommends is to start each day with prayer. He prays out loud to keep himself focused.

He says, “I take time to thank God for yesterday’s experiences and answered prayers and then lay before Him the needs of that day. I pray for my family and a list of missionaries and people in need.”

Afterward I read one chapter from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, underlining passages that are meaningful to me. Most of the time I conclude by reading a section of a Christian book.

Bob steps on all our toes, rightly so, by comparing our lives to our cell phones. We charge our phones every night, and yet we fail to recharge ourselves. Hello?

He reminds us of Jesus praying, “Give me this day my daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11) I love what The New Living Translation says, “Give us today the food we need.”

He tells of his Mother repeatedly talking about the importance of “staying prayed up.” God rest her sweet soul. I was blessed to meet Catherine Russell on occasion and can only imagine how proud of Bob she was. Bob adds, “A daily quiet time contributes to staying prayed up and lays the groundwork for ‘praying without ceasing.’”

Bob closes the book with two challenges. One is, “Be faithful.” He says, “Woody Allen was certainly no theologian, but he was right when he suggested that eighty percent of success is just showing up. ..

Sometimes the way we tell the Lord we love Him is to:

Get out of to bed,

Put our feet on the floor, and

Go about our daily assignments even though we don’t feel like it.

That’s called faithfulness.”

Two examples of this popped in my head from a couple of books I’ve been reading. One comes from Lysa TerKeurst. She talks about her daughter’s struggle with a certain sport. She said she finally had to keep telling her, “Just show up for practice. Just show up for practice.” (www.lysaterkeurst.com )

Another one comes from Ken Davis. He said while he was attempting to morph into a cyclist in Fully Alive, he’d try to make himself go one more telephone pole further on each ride. (www.kendavis.com )

May we press on for God’s glory and “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

Now, please go grab Bob’s book and start reading! You’ll be blessed beyond measure, a beautiful picture of Bob’s favorite verse:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

 ‘Til next time!

 

 

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New Website, A Million God Stories, Launches Tonight! (7:00 p.m., ET 8/31/16)

Friends! Hustle over to your phone or I-pad or laptop and checkout a wonderful, blessings-filled, only-God-could-pull-this-off brand-new website:

www.amilliongodstories.com will launch at 7:00 sharp tonight, 8/31/16, while anyone who’s anywhere near Lexington, Kentucky, is invited and more than welcome to celebrate at The Roastery. (529 West Main Street, www.dailyoffersingscoffee.com )

The website will start being available tonight world-wide, filled with stories from people all over the world. Initially there’ll be ten stories. Then every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, a new story will be posted. All topics will be included from all ages, with one theme: God is at work, everywhere, every day and the world needs to know about it!

Readers can subscribe on the website to receive the new stories in a newsletter by email every Saturday.

 

Their mission:

“To glorify God by providing a place for all people to share stories of the amazing things God has done.”

Their goal:

“To share one million stories that honor God.”

Their verse:

Let the whole world glorify the Lord.” Isaiah 42:12

 

Who’s behind this? Pam VanArsdall, Founder and Editor-in-Chief.

Pam VanArsdall

Pam tells us, “As average Americans, we spend one hour and forty minutes browsing social media each day. Much of the content is not meaningful. What if even a portion of that time was spent reading about the incredible things of God? Wouldn’t that have a positive impact on us?”

Pam maintains we can all think of at least one amazing God experience in our lifetimes. Some of these stories get shared and sadly, some don’t. Maybe it’s too personal, or maybe we fear we’d be judged.

She reminds us, “We’re called to witness, to share our testimonies of God’s power, goodness, faithfulness, and love. We are called to bring God glory.”

www.amilliongodstories.com is a website where you may share your story! It’s a safe place where you can be anonymous if you choose, or you can opt to use your name and perhaps your photograph.

One neat service this website offers is Pam and her Team have writers available to help you should you wish to share your story and don’t want to be the one to write it.

If you simply wish to visit the site and read the stories, that’s great too. These stories will minister to so many, on so many different levels. They will encourage and remind us of God’s faithfulness.

There’s a cool search feature where we readers can choose stories with a particular topic such as:

God’s presence,

Holy Spirit,

Anxiety,

College Student,

Contentment,

Crises,

Grief,

Hope,

Marriage,

Mission trip,

Overwhelmed,

Surrender,

Witnessing, etc.

I’m blessed to call Pam a dear friend.  The icing on the cake is we have a fabulous connection. Just so happens her daughter, Lauren, and our son, Gordy, are married. It’s the BEST.

The past year and a half has brought many changes for Pam.  She got married, went from full-time to part-time in her job, then flat retired.  This was about the exact same time the Lord put this idea in her head and she sprinted with it.  No resting on your laurels for her!  I’m so excited for this endeavor.

Pam’s Team she’s assembled is amazing as well:

Maddie Pierce Wofford is their Visionary Director and Connector. Maddie’s a good friend of all our kiddos. She’s a ten talent gal who was in both Lauren’s and LT’s weddings, and they in turn were in hers.

Maddie Wofford

Ashley McKinney is their Creative Director and On-Location Photographer.

Ashley McKinney

Nicole Tarpoff is their Director of Photography.

Nicole Tarpoff

Kelly Bixler is their Copyeditor.  She can become your right hand man should you need help writing your story!

Kelly Bixler

Please lift up Pam and her Team in prayer as they launch this beautiful, Spirit-filled website. It has the potential to reach so many for God and His glory, while touching  countless lives.

Blessings to you, Pam, and thanks for a wonderful resource!

‘Til next time!

 

 

 

 

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Sophie Hudson’s Newest Book, “Giddy Up, Eunice—Because Women Need Each Other”, is Her Best Yet!

Friends! Run grab Sophie’s new book for you and for your friends! I bet I’ve bought twenty plus copies recently. This one is my favorite of all of Sophie’s books. (Soph—You are the BOMB!!!)

As if she’s my best friend, I’ve never met her, but she writes like we’re sitting across the table from one another… We could soooo carry on, and on, and on at Starbucks.

Giddy up eunice

In case you’re not familiar with Sophie, she’s best known for her blog, the Boo Mama blog: www.BooMama.net She also happens to be friends with another one of my favorite authors, Melanie Shankle, blogger of www.thebigmamablog.com

Further exciting, the two of them converse from time to time and record it on Sophie’s blog, calling it “The Big Boo Cast”. Check it out! Fab music, too. They kill me. (They’re currently on Episode 63.)

Anywho, let’s chat about Sophie’s book. This one’s my favorite because she includes mini-Bible studies about three beautiful friendships in the Bible: Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, and Lois and Eunice.

I’m only sharing tidbits from the first of the three friendships (Mary and Elizabeth) to entice you to read about all of them! Her humor is non-stop amidst the serious Scripture page-turner points. (I predict every one of us readers will have a sinking spell over the sink.  Someone, please, for Sophie’s sake, go get that sink…)

Plus, word of warning: the last chapters on Lois and Eunice include the decline of Sophie’s Mother’s health. You will need a box of Kleenex.  (I went thru’ this with my own Mother.)  Sophie really brings you in the room with her family. Precious, dear, and courageous.

My favorite chapter title is: We May Have to Walk Uphill Together, but at Least It’s Good for Our Calves. That’s the best thing us gals can do for one another is to simply be there for one another.

Woman Friends Enjoying A Day On The Beach

My friend Jane is the quintessential hold-your-hand-friend. (Surely she’s related to Radar from M*A*S*H.) She suddenly appears, with whatever you need, in hand.

When my Daddy was about to take his last breath on this earth, in walks Jane, Starbucks in hand for both of us, to hold my hand. Had she called, I would’ve said, “No, don’t come, I’m fine.” But she knew I wasn’t.

When our friend Gwen, recently widowed, was returning from a trip out of town, Jane drove over to her condo’, groceries in hand, stocked her frig, and turned some lights on so she wouldn’t come in to a dark house. Who does that?

Detached house at night view from outside the rear courtyard.

Back to Giddy Up, Eunice: One of many pearls Sophie offers is about the need for us older gals to come alongside the younger gals. She says, “These Millenial girls need us, y’all. They need us something awful.”

She adds, “We need to keep our spiritual eyes wide open as we walk our unique, God-ordained roads because:

  • We need each other, and
  • Sometimes the folks God sends to walk with us don’t look anything like what we expect.”

Lest you think you’re not qualified or have nothing to offer, Sophie pretty much tells us to just show up. Let the Lord take the reigns and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I declare our daughters-in-love bless me more than I bless them, so the tables can be turned age-wise as well.

Sophie also points out things you and I may not have considered before. Such as Mary must’ve been desperate for company if she walked seventy miles to see Elizabeth!

Plus, this is a major pearl—think about this with your own friends: When you know you can trust someone, and are in a safe place within your relationship…look at what Sophie teaches us that makes a relationship so special:

“When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces.”

 Oh, that needs repeating: “Safe places become sacred spaces.”

 She adds, “…when we know we’re in a sacred space, there’s freedom to share our real lives and our real circumstances.

To sincerely pray for one another.

To bless each other.

To listen with our hearts as well as our ears.”

Isn’t that the best? I experienced this first hand weekend before last on a road trip to Nashville with my friend Nancy. Nancy’s the kind of friend who will drop whatever she’s doing to tune into you and your day.

While we were trekking south to attend a Beth Moore conference, that was exciting in and of itself, but for us to be together for three hours in the car, we both decided that was just as exciting as going to the conference! Why? Because we both possess crazy calendars and rarely get this kind of opportunity.

Further funny, both of us are writing books (more to come on that little topic down the pike…) and still cannot believe such truth. We are living proof the Lord has a sense of humor.

The other gift Sophie blesses us with is rich application. She teaches us about trust that Mary and Elizabeth had for each other regardless of their age difference. (They were approximately fifty years apart!)

Then she gives us a “let’s-take-this-upon-ourselves” question: “Are our spiritual eyes wide open as we look for our people?”

Look out. Literally. Some of my best friends came from the craziest of coincidences. And we know with God, there are no such things as coincidences, they’re God-incidences. May we all be in tune for whomever our Sweet Lord wants us to meet. 

This is where our ships, yes plural, shall come in:

Relationship.

Friendship.

Fellowship.

Discipleship.

Large yacht harbor in purple sunset light, luxury summer cruise,

This is my constant sermonette to our Bible study gals. When we study God’s Word, all, (Yes, ALL) of those “ships” will come in.  It’s an amazingly beautiful gift from God.

Sophie gives proof of this to us in one of my all-time favorite verses:

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Let’s set sail and see where we land. While you’re packin’, be sure to pack Sophie’s book in your bag.

‘Til next time!

 

P.S. FYI, here are Sophie’s other books:

Home is Where My People Are: The Roads That Lead Us to Where We Belong

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A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, family and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon

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Guest Author, Robert J. Morgan, tells us about his new book: The Strength You Need—The Twelve Great Strength Passages of the Bible (Releasing August 16th!)

Friends! We are so blessed this week to get to hear from author and preacher Rob Morgan about his new book, The Strength You Need. I can’t wait to read it as every book Rob writes becomes my favorite.

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Rob is the Teaching Pastor at Donelson Fellowship Church in Nashville, Tennessee. (www.donelson.org ) He’s been preaching, shepherding and serving there for thirty-five years. John and I go hear him preach whenever we’re in Nashville. His church is only five minutes from Opryland.

Rob has been most gracious to drive in from Nashville to speak at two book clubs I’ve had the pleasure of attending in Louisville. He came to Southeast Christian several years ago when we read his book One Hundred Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart. Last fall he came to Middletown United Methodist Church when we discussed The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times.

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Rob and his lovely wife, Katrina, worked together on this newest book, The Strength You Need–The Twelve Great Strength Passages of the Bible. Katrina has been valiantly fighting multiple sclerosis for years. He told me that even tho’ she’s in a weakened state, she contributed a paragraph at the end of each chapter–all the more reason to want to read this book! (Please keep Katrina in your prayers.)

Rob and Katrina are about to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary with their family at the beach the end of this month. They’re blessed with three daughters and fourteen grandchildren. (You don’t want to miss their experiences in raising sheep when the girls were young in The Lord is My Shepherd—Exploring Psalm 23.)

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Rob recently sent me an excerpt from his newest book.  Without further ado, let’s enjoy some wonderful words from our author while praying we can wait patiently for the August 16th release date of The Strength You Need


“From Strength to Strength”

By Robert J. Morgan

(Adapted from the conclusion of his book, The Strength You Need)

Last night I stood on the front porch and watched the sun descend like a burning plate behind the horizon. This morning while brushing my teeth, I saw the same sun arise on the opposite side, ascending over the tree line like a blazing disk. I thought of the old song, “Awake, my soul, and with the sun thy daily stage of duty run.”

Who knows how many days are left us in this world? How long until the Lord returns? Not long, I think. We have work to do and a cause to advance, and we need all the strength we can muster.

Psalm 84 tells the story of a pilgrim like us, a traveler preparing for his annual trek to Jerusalem for one of the great Jewish festivals. For him, the greatest thing was visiting the Jewish Temple, standing in its courtyards, listening to its choirs, and sensing the presence of the Lord God. “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord,” he said in verse 2. But the trip was rigorous, dangerous, and demanding. Where would he find strength for the journey, especially through the hot valley of Baka?

He exclaimed in verses 5-7:

Psalm 84

We can learn from this Psalm. Our lives are a pilgrimage to the city whose architect and builder is God. We’re travelers tackling rugged terrain. As we press on, strengthened by the Lord, we leave blessings behind us. We turn waterless valleys into irrigated landscapes. We go from strength to strength, from day to day, from faith to faith, and from glory to glory. Along the way, the Lord will provide the strength we need.

Here are some power lines stretching from heaven right into your heart. These are some of the great strength passages of the Bible. My wife, Katrina, and I have searched these out and have written about them in my book The Strength You Need. Read them, and claim one of them for your pilgrimage today.

  • Your strength will equal your days – Deuteronomy 33:25.
  • The eyes of the Lord range to and fro throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him – 2 Chronicles 16:9.
  • The joy of the Lord is your strength – Nehemiah 8:10.
  • The Lord is our refuge and strength – Psalm 46:1
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – Philippians 4:13.
  • Out of His glorious riches He will strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being – Ephesians 3:16.

 

 

THANK YOU, ROB!!!  Blessings to you, your family, your church and please keep writing!

August 16th won’t come soon enough! May we stop and take hold of those “power lines” to strengthen us.

‘Til next time!

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Gift Book, Married for Life—Inspirations from Those Married Fifty Years or More, Inspires All Ages…(Plus Petite Travelogue from Gulf Shores, Alabama)

Friends! Run, don’t walk, to your nearest Hallmark store and grab several copies of a nifty little gift book. (www.hallmark.com ) Married for Life—Inspirations from those Married Fifty Years or More by Russ L. Potter, II and Bill Morelan is a fantastic, enlightening discovery.

My friend Mary gave a copy of this book to our newest daughter-in-love, Diana, at a dinner in her honor before she and John Jr. got married. Fascinated by the title, I peeked inside…

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Every two pages include quotes, devotional-style, from a different couple who have been married fifty years or more. A snippet of how they met comes with their two cents’ worth on what’s kept them married all these years. The advice concludes with a fitting Scripture.

I was so blown away by this power-packed book, I marched out and bought several copies. One for Hubster and me since we’ve just celebrated our thirty-second anniversary, one for each of our married kids, and one for several different couples who recently got engaged. It’s the perfect gift!

One favorite section is entitled: “Never get too old to hold hands.” This comes from Arnold and Hazel Morelan, married on February 17, 1920 in Iola, Kansas.

Old Couple Holding Hands

They say, “Holding hands is one of the most intimate expressions of love between two human beings. Don’t ever let this beautiful act slip away from you…It requires no words; in fact, no words can convey such a profound message.”

They conclude: “Hold your spouse’s hand throughout your life together; don’t ever let it go until the day when you’ve fulfilled every marriage vow and finally release it from your grasp, placing it lovingly, trustingly into the hand of God.” Tear jerker!

Psalm 73:23-24 ties this together:

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The Life Application Bible reminds us, “From birth to death, God has us continually in His grip. But far more, we have hope in the resurrection. Though our courage and strength may fail, we know that one day we will be raised to life to serve Him forever. He is our security, and we must cling to Him.”

Our family of eight was recently gathered around a table, eating breakfast in Orange Beach, Alabama, right down the beach from Gulf Shores. We’d trekked there for a week of vacation. (Just to pull that off is like herding cats, so we were beyond grateful it came to fruition.)

LT read us this very quote from this devotional. Now that we all have a copy, my prayer is we’ll continue to enjoy the book post-vacation.

God blessed us with picture perfect weather, a beautiful beach to look at, walk on, sit on, play in, and the most fun lazy river pool you’ve ever seen. It was the solution to beating the heat.

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I must share about a very challenging team-building activity we tried: Breakout Games— “A Life-Sized Game of Twists and Turns”. (Checkout www.breakoutgames.com ) See if your town has one!

Grab some friends or family and go try it!  It’s a total blast. I double dog dare ya to watch the “launch video briefing” from the website.  It’ll kick your heartbeat up a notch or two or twenty…

Breakout Games currently offers the following options:

Museum Heist,
The Kidnapping,
Island Escape,
Hostage, and
Operation: Casino.

We chose the Operation: Casino. Our kids turned out to be super smart sleuths, solving puzzle, after clue, after lock combination. Hubster and I pretty much watched them at work, all the while being one hundred percent wide-eyed.

Participants only get an hour to solve the mystery. You’re also blessed with a “Game Keeper” who watches your every move from another room and occasionally gives you a hint or two. Jessica was our Game Keeper. She was the bomb, bless her patient soul.

The instant the door closed, a very large clock started the sixty minute countdown…oh my… I had my doubts, but with the kids’ persistence, I’m happy to report we were able to break out with less than three minutes to spare.

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Lest any of you are claustrophobic, you’re free to leave the room at any time, especially to visit the loo. Just sayin’…You can imagine our dinner conversation after our big breakout!

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We all had “jobs” during our week of vacation, just to throw some more ideas your way…

Each of our newlywed couples had a night where they “got” to cook dinner. We called it a “Cook Off”. (Translation: Mom and Dad have a night off.) Each couple grilled.

We had tilapia tacos one night, steaks-n-potatoes another, and chicken with mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado another, pardon me. We never declared a winner as each meal was so delicious, we couldn’t have possibly chosen just one.

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My equally tough assignment (!!!) was to choose a restaurant to dine in on the nights when the kids weren’t cooking.

Any of y’all heading to Gulf Shores may like to know we LOVED The Gulf (www.thegulf.com). They have a fantastic grouper sandwich as well as a grouper salad in a very festive atmosphere.  We ate at a picnic table right next to the beach.

Since Breakout Games is located at The Wharf (www.alwharf.com), we were able to get a table by the marina at The Villaggio Grille. (www.villaggiogrille.com) The Wharf’s development has only been open a few months, so they’re still trying to fine tune things. Good potential.

Craving a good lasagna as Hubster does nearly nightly, we tried Cafe Grazie (www.cafe-grazie.com) another night. The lasagna was good, but not as pretty as the picture.

I had the grouper with pasta and capers which was delicious. Others of us tried a pizza and different shrimp and pasta dishes. Crab cakes were a big hit. After dinner, we walked out onto the docks and snapped some fun photos:

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Group picture of all eight of us above from left to right are: Woody and LT, John Jr. and Diana, Gordy and Lauren and Hubster and Yours Truly.  The girls’ photo starts with Diana, then Lauren, me, and LT.  Just warmed our hearts to have our kiddos together.

Sadly our last night rolled around way too quickly. We ventured over to Shipps Harbour Grill (www.shippsrestaurant.com) . Big bonus: you could make a reservation.

We tried nearly everything on the menu: oysters on the half shell (not 100% participation there….); smoked tuna dip (delish, but we all ate too many crackers!), fried shrimp and fish, coconut grouper, island mahi mahi, and a crab and brie quesadilla. Our favorite side dish of the night was the smoked gouda mashed potatoes (oh my—to die for!). Our round table of eight led to some massive sharing. This was a favorite.

Finally, let’s look at one more pearl of a quote from Married for Life. At dinner one night, we loved this, given we were at the beach: “Enjoy the simple things—like looking at sunsets.”

Retirement Vacation Concept, Happy Mature Retired Couple Enjoyin

This comes from Auburn and Louise Roland, married December 14, 1935 in Leicester, North Carolina. They say, “When you and your spouse feel the need to get back to basics, to look beyond the clutter and clamor of this bewildering, complicated world and see what really matters, just go outside together for a moment and gaze upward. No matter what time of day it is, you will witness God’s splendor—…”

“…And when a butterfly floats out of the sky and alights nearby, examine it closely and consider, Who but God could have made such a lovely, ‘simple’ thing?”

Large Tree Nymphs butterfly and flowers

As God would orchestrate, Lauren had just been telling us about a neat connection she has with butterflies. Our gracious God literally sent one her way at the perfect time when we’d been in Naples together a few years ago. (Later this month I’ll be sharing about a new website Lauren’s Mother is launching and you’ll be able to read her whole story. It’s the BEST!)

We also realized Gordy’s had a love for butterflies since he was a small child. We have a great picture of him with three butterflies sitting on one hand one summer day. It “just so happened” it was Lauren who read this particular devotion to all of us. Is God the best, or what?

Let’s close with the Scripture this section offers:

Psalm 113:3 says:

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We praise you, Lord.

Amen.

‘Til next time!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Travel